Managing IT people is different

By September 17, 2012 All members

Managing IT people is different


Managing IT means recognising that IT people are different!

Management is the art of getting the best from your team, without getting in the way of allowing them to use their skills to produce the best results.

This is especially true if you are managing IT people.

Before I became a manager, I used to be a Techie.

I trained in the esoterics of software development until I could dash off the most perfect software code imaginable. My applications were works of art and in great demand. If you wanted your mini computer to go faster, I was your man (well, woman). I could even take a computer apart, explain what all the different bits did, then put it all back together and run a software demonstration. On the same computer. In front of a live audience.

It wasn’t until I became a manager, and became responsible for managing IT people, that I realised what a strange and unique bunch of people techies were.Techies are very smart, and managing them is sometimes like managing cats!

Here are some tips:

Techies are motivated by doing interesting work

They will put up with low pay, terrible working conditions and long hours provided they are working on something really interesting and technically challenging.They also thrive on solving problems. If their work isn’t interesting, they may well create complexityand problems  just to make it so.

Giving them some time to ‘play’ will often get you round getting them to do some of the more boring stuff without creating problems. They won’t mind putting in extra time for this, but keep them away from anything critical!

Techies like to be managed by someone they respect

Don’t we all! I hear you say. But to a techie, the people they respect most are fellow techies. That doesn’t mean you have to know everything they know, which would be impossible. But you do need to talk the talk and understand the technology they are working with.

They are smart, so will spot a fraud a mile away, but they also love to share their knowledge, so being interested in what they do is crucial.

Techies are usually detail focussed

They need this to be effective at their jobs. But this also means they can struggle with seeing the bigger picture and the business context of what they do. It isn’t that they don’t care, it is just that they are more concerned with making everthing little technical thing right. They often don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t see thing this way too.

Your job as a manager is to bridge this gap, although at times this may seem like a chasm!

Techies communicate differently

It isn’t just that they use a lot of technical jargon. Jagon is their way of shortcircuiting communications between techies. Techies use language to exchange, often precise, information, rather than ideas or feelings. For example a manager may ask for a completion date. They mean an approximate target, while the techie may hear this as a request for an absolute deadline.

By refining your language and being explicit, you can get a better response.

For more help and ideas:

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One Comment

  • Nigel Temple says:

    Thanks for posting this, Jacqui. From a marketing perspective, it’s very important to communicate effectively with IT professionals – as marketing communications becomes increasingly digital.

    For smaller businesses, the ‘IT department’ is likely to comprise one or more external suppliers. I would add that most small business owners have, in recent years, had to become more IT literate – in order to cope with their website CMS, email newsletter system and the ins and outs of SEO, for starters. I wonder where we will all be in 10 years time!

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